About Liaison and Diversion

What is Liaison and Diversion?

Liaison and Diversion (L&D) services operate by referring offenders who are identified with having mental health, learning disabilities, substance misuse or other vulnerabilities to an appropriate treatment or support service.

The most important areas of operation for L&D services are: identification, assessment, screening and referral

Identification: Criminal justice agencies, such as police, courts or youth offending teams, are trained to recognise possible signs of mental health, learning disabilities and/or substance misuse in offenders when they first come in contact with them – this could be from a voluntary attendance at a police station or when they first come into the custody suite or court. The custody/detention staff then alerts the person who has been identified to the L&D practitioner who moves to the screening stage. There is also an opportunity to identify people with vulnerabilities at the court stage if they have not been identified earlier. This first awareness of a vulnerability is the start of the liaison and diversion pathway.

Screening: Once an offender identified as having a mental health issue or vulnerability, the L&D practitioner would offer screening which will provide them with evidence whether a further assessment is required or not. The screening identifies the need, level of risk and urgency.

Assessment:  Using appropriate and approved screening tools an L&D practitioner will undertake a more detailed assessment of the offender and their vulnerability which will be able to inform them of the offenders needs and whether they should be referred onwards to treatment or further support.

Referral: Following assessment, the L&D practitioner may refer the service user to appropriate mainstream health and social care services and other relevant interventions and support services. This will also include support to their first appointment and the capturing of outcomes.

Throughout the pathway, data about the health needs of the service user are captured and used by agencies such as police, judges and probation so that they can make informed decisions about case management, sentencing and disposal. The police and judiciary make appropriate decisions, based on the evidence and information presented to them. L&D services will also provide a route to treatment for people whose offending behaviour is linked to their illness or vulnerability with the principle of preventing crime, reducing re-offending and providing better and more timely information to agencies in the criminal justice system.

National standard service specification – the vision for the future

The L&D Programme and its partner the Offender Health Collaborative (OHC) reviewed existing L&D services during 2011 to 2013 and found that services had developed in a variety of forms responsive to local need. The first national service specification has now been developed which reflects the need for services to provide a consistent approach across England. The service specification will also be used by commissioners to assure services users and the public of the quality of services.

In brief the standard service specification focuses on:

  • All-age services (children, young people and adults)
  • Identification and referral of a wide range of mental health, disability, substance misuse, learning disability and vulnerabilities
  • Coverage at all times to reflect service need.

You can view the full standard service specification and operating model. Please note this model and specification are currently being trialled and therefore marked as draft documents until the evaluation of the trial is complete.

In January 2014 the Department of Health announced an investment of £25 million for existing L&D provision and to test the service specification in 10 trial schemes during 2014/15.

  • Leicester
  • Merseyside
  • Dorset
  • Bristol
  • Sunderland and Middlesbrough
  • Coventry
  • London
  • South Essex
  • Wakefield
  • Sussex

The standard service specification will be rolled out further to cover 50% of the population in England by 2015/16. The above 10 trial schemes will be formally evaluated by an independent research organisation who will report back to the Programme in 2015. This evaluation will form part of the full business case, which if approved by HM Treasury, we anticipate full rollout of the service specification to 100% of the population by 2017/18.

The Liaison and Diversion Programme

The L&D Programme was created in 2010 and has developed into a strong cross-government initiative, with partners from:

  • Department of Health
  • NHS England
  • Home Office
  • Ministry of Justice
  • Youth Justice Board
  • HM Courts and Tribunals Service
  • Public Health England
  • Offender Health Collaborative
  • Bradley Review Group
  • National Offender Management Service
  • Crown Prosecution Service

The Programme came about as a consequence of the Bradley Report of which was published in 2009. In December 2007, Lord Bradley was asked by the Government to consider ways to divert people with mental health problems and vulnerabilities away from the criminal justice system. He undertook a 12 month review of which he recommended that the government should develop and improve Liaison and Diversion Services.

The Programme has produced and developed the first national model for commissioning L&D services as well as working extensively with L&D service providers to build an active network. From 1 April 2014, the Programme transitioned from Department of Health to NHS England to reflect the move into its implementation phase. During this time, the Programme will be working significantly with NHS England commissioners and L&D service providers to ensure that roll out of the Programme is delivering as scheduled and trial schemes are operating to a high quality.

Liaison and Diversion region by region